Like many educational organizations this year, the NC State TRIO Upward Bound Programs had to face its first summer ever operating in a fully remote capacity. Serving 186 students across five high schools in the Raleigh area, NC State’s the largest Upward Bound program in North Carolina. Like all Upward Bound programs across the nation, NC State’s program serves first-generation, low income college-bound students. Their seven-week summer residential program helps ensure that participating students avoid the summer melt, prepare for the fall semester, and advance along the path towards college and career success.
Faced with the challenges of COVID-19, the leadership team rallied to find innovative ways to serve their students virtually. Assistant Director Terry Baxter and Academic Coordinator Canitria Cook took charge of career and college preparation, embracing VirtualJobShadow.com as the primary resource to deliver college and career readiness objectives to students. Together, they built a robust seven-week curriculum that moved students across a wide range of work readiness lessons. At the end of the 7 weeks, students not only had developed professional resumes, they also built a set of short and long term S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related) goals to prepare them for the fall semester.
Using the integrated tools and resources on VirtualJobShadow.com, the NC State TRIO Upward Bound Programs broke down their summer program as follows:
● Week One
- Objective- Teach students about grit, the importance of a strong work ethic, and perseverance. Use “My Plan Outline” FlexLesson to help students navigate the platform.
- Implementation- In week one, students completed two of VirtualJobShadow.com’s pre-built FlexLessons, “Understanding GRIT” and “My Plan Outline.” This allowed them to establish a base. They understood why work and perseverance were vital in relation to their career journey and familiarized themselves with the platform.
● Week Two
- Objective- Explore careers associated with student interests.
- Implementation- In week two, students took the CCIS (Career Clusters Interest Survey), which matches a person’s interests to the career clusters based on activities they enjoy. Students then picked 3 videos in Career Central from each of their top 2 Career Clusters (6 videos in total) to explore in depth. They were required to watch the Job Shadowing Video associated with their chosen careers, read the career description and integrated labor market information (required education, earnings based on locale, future outlook), and complete a Career Journal for each career. One student said they liked this part because it, “showed me a lot of career options I didn’t even think about.”
● Week Three
- Objective– Explore careers associated with student interests.
- Implementation- Week three consisted of more varied career exploration. Students took the O*Net Interest Profiler, which connects a person’s interests and how they relate to the world of work. Like the previous week, they then picked 3 career profiles from their top two interests to explore further, completing all the required activities assigned the previous week.
● Week Four
- Objective- Students will be able to identify postsecondary schools that will set them up for their future.
- Implementation- Based on the information they gathered the previous weeks, students needed to add at least 8 colleges or universities (4 from North Carolina) to the “My Colleges” list that offer degrees and/or certifications for their top career interests. They compared schools side by side to ascertain things like population, admission requirements, tuition/fees and demographics. Once that was done, each student had to create a PowerPoint presentation which would include their top career choice, information about each career, then three colleges that were an option based on that career. The students broke up into groups and presented their PowerPoints to each other via Zoom. They considered this their “Virtual College Fair,” since each student learned about 3-10 new colleges and universities.
● Week Five
- Objective- Creating a list of goals.
- Implementation- Week five started off with each student watching at least 10 Life Skills Videos to help them think about real-world situations and skills. Taking into consideration the results of their career exploration, college exploration, and these career readiness lessons, students were then tasked with creating a list of 5 short-term and five long-term S.M.A.R.T goals.
● Week Six
- Objective- Students will reflect on their career goals and experience.
- Implementation- Utilizing the Post-Secondary Plan tool, students will reflect and decide on their top 3 career choices and top three college choices. They wrote a 2-page essay reflecting on whether their career goals changed and what steps they’d take to make those goals a reality. Canitria told us approximately 70% of the students wanted to still explore the careers they initially thought interested them, while the remaining 30% found new pathways to pursue. She also noted how several students who didn’t want to change career paths just yet now have alternative plans in place in case their first-choice career path doesn’t work out.
● Week Seven
- Objective- Students will create a resume.
- Implementation- In their final week, students used the Resume Builder to create an academic/professional resume they could begin using in college or career searches.
Some Upward Bound students who completed the program gave it high reviews saying it, “really made me think about my future,” and that it, “answered the questions I’ve been wanting to ask.” Terry said that the platform helped them meet their mission to ensure students stay on the college track. He added that part of their goal of the summer was to let students do something that didn’t feel like just taking more online classes—something they were burned out from after their sudden switch to remote learning in the spring. Though completely online, virtual job shadowing through the VirtualJobShadow.com platform didn’t feel like just another online course to the students. It felt like something “bigger picture”—helping them connect their learning to their futures and start actively engaging in their postsecondary plans.